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Citi Double Cash Comes Out Ahead vs. Bank of America Cash Rewards

Cash Back Credit Cards, Credit Cards
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Citi Double Cash vs BankAmericard Cash Rewards

For almost any cardholder, the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer will deliver significantly more cash back than the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card. Even if you have a Bank of America® account, and you’re deciding between rewards and convenience, the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer will probably still come out ahead.

Both cash-back cards are available for people with good credit, not just excellent credit. They’re both designed to reward you for everyday spending. But the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer outperforms the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card in just about every way. It offers the most rewards for the least cost and hassle, making it a true top-of-wallet card.

Why the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is better

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer offers an industry-leading cash back rate: an unlimited 1% cash back on every purchase, plus another 1% back on every dollar you pay down. And you don’t need to have a certain investment account, as you do with the Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card, to get these big rewards — you just need good credit. The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card, by contrast, is more complicated and earns fewer rewards.

 Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Annual fee
$0 $0
Intro 0% APR0% on Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 14.49% - 24.49% Variable APR 0% on Purchases for 12 billing cycles and 0% on Balance Transfers for 12 billing cycles for balance transfers made in the first 60 days, and then the ongoing APR of 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR
Sign-up bonusNone$150 online cash rewards bonus after you spend at least $500 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
Rewards1% cash back on all purchases
+ 1% back on every dollar paid off
3% on gas
2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs
1% everywhere else
Spending capsNone$2,500 in combined gas, wholesale club and grocery purchases each quarter
Loyalty bonusNone10% when you redeem as a deposit in a Bank of America® affiliated account; more if you're enrolled in Preferred Rewards

Here’s why the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is the better choice:

You’ll likely earn more rewards in the first year. With the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card, you get a 10% rewards bonus if you redeem your cash back as a deposit in a Bank of America® affiliated account. You’ll get an even bigger bonus — 25%, 50% or 75% more — if you have combined balances of over $20,000 in affiliated accounts and enroll in the Preferred Rewards program.

In other words, instead of getting 3% back on gas, you’d effectively be earning 3.3%, 3.75%, 4.5% or 5.25% back on gas, depending on your balances. (For more on how that works, see our Preferred Rewards page.)

But even if you were to qualify for that 10% loyalty bonus and earn the sign-up bonus on the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card, you’d still be better off with the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer. NerdWallet calculated the cash back that a typical family could expect to earn on each card based on average household spending data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with the assumption that cardholders would use wholesale clubs primarily for grocery purchases. The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer comes out about $24 ahead in the first year, even though it doesn’t have a sign-up bonus.

 Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Figures assume cardholder earns the 10% loyalty bonus and sign-up bonus on the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ credit card.
Rewards in the first year$492.72$468.97
Rewards in second and later years $492.72$368.97

You’ll earn more rewards in following years, too — in most cases. When you take the long view, the chasm in earnings between the two cards only deepens. Sign-up bonus aside, the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card (with the 10% bonus) trails the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer in rewards by more than $100 annually, assuming average household spending.

In fact, the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card gains a substantial rewards lead on the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer only for people who have $100,000 in combined balances in their Bank of America®, Merrill Lynch® and Merrill Edge® accounts, and can qualify for the 75% bonus. With the 50% bonus, the rewards are roughly equal to the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer.

bofa versus citi

Most people can’t qualify for these larger bonuses, though. Consider that the median value of a household’s interest-earning assets — including savings accounts, money market deposit accounts, certificate of deposits, and interest-earning checking accounts — at financial institutions was $2,450 in 2011, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data available.

The median value of an IRA or Keogh account in the same year — which only about 29% of households reported having in the first place — was $34,000.

» MORE: Merrill Edge® review

It’s simpler. The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card’s rewards are more complicated than the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer’s rewards because of its spending caps and loyalty bonuses. It caps bonus rewards on combined gas and grocery purchases at just $2,500 per quarter. You also need to maintain certain balances in your accounts to qualify for the Preferred Rewards bonuses. It comes with a better 0% purchase APR offer, but the improved introductory period might not be worth the cost in rewards.

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is less of a hassle. It offers an unlimited 1% + 1% rewards on all categories, and you’ll get those larger rewards regardless of how you spend your money or whether you bank with Citi.

The cost of convenience

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card has one big thing going for it: convenience. If you bank with Bank of America® and have the card, you’d have the advantage of seeing all your accounts and credit card in one online portal, and that’s useful, without a doubt. But it’s probably not $100-a-year useful.

Going with the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is a better choice in almost every case, even if it means keeping your accounts in different places. Follow the best rewards, rather than staying loyal to a single bank, and you’ll save a lot more in the long run.

Updated Aug. 2, 2017.  

Claire Tsosie is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: claire@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @ideclaire7.